My teen won’t do their homework!
Every adult you know was once a teenager. This fact may reassure you that teenage years are survivable, both for your teenager and for you. A teenage brain is not an adult brain. Take that one fact to heart—by dealing with your teenager differently than you would deal with a peer—and many of your parent-child confrontations will evaporate, including the problem of your teen not doing their homework.
Teenagers are programmed through evolution to rebel against parents as a way to prepare for independent living. Teenagers seek any kindling for conflict. Unfortunately, homework is fertile ground, because it is the teenager’s task and you have already signaled its importance to you over the years.
Rather than fuel an argument, keep your eye on the goal: graduation. Beyond normal teen rebellion, other factors might be at play:
- the homework is too hard
- the child lacks specific skills
- the homework is too easy or boring
- ready distractions are visible
- your perception of time differs from your teenager’s view
Homework is, ultimately, one very small component of your child’s educational success. Constantly remind yourself and your child that graduation is the finish line, and no one can carry him across the line—he has to get there on his own.
In parent-teen interactions, emotions are the child’s roller coaster. Never buy a ticket for that ride. Stay on neutral ground. Assess your teenager as objectively as possible, without emotion:
- Consider what your child’s choices are that may conflict with getting homework done. You may feel a sports event, concert, night out with friends or gaming session is secondary to homework, but your teenager will not.
- The homework may be too hard; your child may have an undiagnosed learning disability. Even into their teen years, children may not show obvious signs of learning disabilities. Discuss the possibility with your school’s guidance counselor and family doctor.
- The opposite problem, where homework is uninteresting or too easy, can emerge when teenagers have more opportunities than younger children. Keeping a part-time job, maintaining a car, and mingling with peers for a rich social life are all far more engaging than homework.
Teenagers still need adult help to learn time management for long-term assignments. The teenage brain lives in the present, with little thought for deadlines.
Make time visible to your child, by providing an analog clock and analog watch (digital watches lack the same impact). Require your child to write down due dates for major assignments on a calendar that is visible to you and to your teen.
Politely ask your teenager’s teachers for their views on your child’s performance. Many students with poor homework habits can still perform well in school because homework may be given little weight. If your child is successful in class participation and on assessments, perhaps you need to worry less about the homework.
If several of your teenager’s teachers, however, point to homework as one small problem in a larger issue, you need their help to help your teen.
Your teen’s coaches can remind your child of the consequences of falling grades. When your teenager realizes you, the coaches, counselors and teachers are working as a team, your child has no wiggle room to lay blame elsewhere.
Balance carrots and sticks in motivating your teenager to get homework done. Avoid ultimatums, but spell out consequences, such as travel restrictions or electronics limitations. Offer help, such as tutoring services, computer programs and study guides. Offer rewards, too, for measurable improvement.
Do. Not. Nag.
No matter how frustrating the homework headache becomes, do not nag. Keep the focus on helping your teenager increase personal responsibility and decision-making skills.
For more tips on motivating your teen, check out these 7 secrets of motivating teenagers.